Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good~Romans 12:21
I inherited my Grandpa’s Bible, his stethoscope, and his old prescription pad after his death two years ago. I treasure each item for its own unique reason: the Bible, represented Grandpa’s love for God’s Word; the stethoscope, his burden for helping patients physically; and the prescription pad, his passion for helping patients spiritually.
Prescription pads are not ordinarily associated with spiritual healing, but my grandfather, Russell Youngberg, CME class of 1949, was no ordinary doctor. Not only did he prescribe medicine, he also prescribed books. Grandpa believed in whole person care, in ministering to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of his patients. That is why he prescribed books.
It all started when Grandpa read The History of the Unitus Fratrum. This book describes the terrible persecution Moravian Protestants faced during the Counter Reformation. One particular story caught Grandpa’s attention. Anton Koniash (1637), a Bohemian monk, was violently opposed to Christian literature being available to common people in their own languages. He risked his life to destroy the Bibles and books of the Moravian Protestants. At the end of his conquest, this man claimed he had destroyed over 60,000 books.
Grandpa was deeply moved by the story, and wanted to do something about it. He prayed God would use him to undo the damage by allowing him to give away 60,000 Christian books. The books he chose to distribute included the Bible, Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, The Ministry of Healing, and The Great Controversy.
Grandpa’s primary mission field was his patients, so he started with them. He placed books in the waiting room of his office. He sent book “care packages” to interested patients after they were discharged home. He wrote prescriptions for books and sent patients to the local Adventist Book Center to have those prescriptions “filled”, billing the cost to his office.
Book by book, Grandpa quietly worked toward his secret goal. No one knew the reason Dr. Youngberg was constantly giving away books, but many appreciated that he did. Toward the end of his life, Grandpa told story after story of patients, colleagues, and complete strangers, who had found hope and inspiration in the pages of their books.
Several years ago, while I was in nursing school, my 82-year-old Grandpa finally shared his secret. He was concerned he would not be able to reach his goal. “How many books do you have left, Grandpa?” I asked. “Oh, about 5,000 or 6,000,” he replied. “Don’t worry, Grandpa,” I said. “You will finish. You just need some help from the younger generation.”
It was a joy and privilege for my family to help Grandpa pass out his last 6,000 books. In the fall of 2010, just months before his death, Grandpa finally reached his goal!
I share Grandpa’s story with the hope that it will inspire other health-care professionals to find creative ways to share God’s love. Whether it is a book, a prayer, or an encouraging word, if we keep our eyes open, there are many opportunities to use our professions to continue the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.-Elise Harboldt is a registered nurse from Redlands, California. She co-authored the book Goodbye Diabetes with Wes Youngberg, an assistant clinical professor in LLUSM department of preventive medicine and LLUSPH department of health promotion.